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Prediction: Minnesota Twins to push defending World Series champion Yankees to max in ALDS

Mark, Teixeira

Mark, Teixeira Photo Credit: Getty Images

New York Yankees
2nd, AL East (95-67)
Most recent postseason:
Beat Philadelphia 4-2, 2009
World Series

Minnesota Twins
1st, AL Central (94-68)
Most recent postseason: Swept by Yankees,
2009 ALDS

The defending champion Yankees might head into tonight’s ALDS Game 1
against the Twins smiling because they’re in the playoffs against a team they’ve beaten in three previous postseason series.

But they might want to temper that enthusiasm: a 9-17 mark since Sept. 5 should give the Bombers reason to worry. Ordinarily, having a team’s postseason number would provide lots of comfort. But for a team beset with pitching problems like the Yankees, caution is best.

“They have a very good team and they’re playing well in their new stadium,” Alex Rodriguez said of the Twins’ new Target Field. “It’s a stadium we haven’t seen very much, with the exception of three games. We’re looking forward to playing a good team.”

Here’s a quick look at some factors that will work for and against the Yanks:

THE GOOD NEWS

Same new A-Rod
Rodriguez had a productive season’s end, hitting .309 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in September and October. He was clutch last postseason, and there’s no reason to think he’ll revert to his infamous pre-2009 postseason ineffectiveness.

Health benefits
Joe Girardi rested folks such as Mark Teixeira (thumb), Brett Gardner (wrist) and Nick Swisher (knee) over the last month, and all three are healthy now. Good thing: The Yanks will need runs against Game 1 starter Francisco Liriano and reborn Carl Pavano in Game 2.

Seeing double
While the Yankees haven’t played the Twins since May, they beat Minnesota in four of six games this year, including two of three in Minneapolis.

THE BAD NEWS

Mo not money lately
Closer Mariano Rivera: automatic, right? Not right now. He blew three of six saves in September to the tune of a 4.76 ERA. If that devastating cut fastball really has gone south, be worried. “I’m fine,” he assured everyone. But is he?

Wild-card record
The Yanks were wild cards in 1995, 1997 and 2007, and suffered first-round exits in each year.

The lone ace
CC Sabathia is great. But do you really trust an ailing Andy Pettitte and an untested Phil Hughes? Could be trouble.

PREDICTION

CC Sabathia will be his usual self and pitch eight innings of one-run ball in a Game 1 win. After that, it’s all a crapshoot.
Twins in 5

ALDS: Yankees vs. Minnesota
Game 1: Today, Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia, 21-7, 3.18) at Minnesota (LHP Francisco Liriano, 14-10, 3.62), 8:30 p.m. TBS
Game 2: Tomorrow, Yankees (LHP Andy Pettitte, 11-3, 3.28) at Minnesota (RHP Carl Pavano, 17-11, 3.75), 6 p.m. TBS
Game 3: Sat., Minnesota (LHP Brian Duensing, 10-3, 2.62) at Yankees (RHP Phil Hughes, 18-8, 4.19), 8:30 p.m. TBS
Game 4: Sun., Minnesota (RHP Nick Blackburn, 10-12, 5.42) at Yankees (TBA), 8 p.m.* TBS
Game 5: Tues., Yankees (TBA) at Minnesota (TBA), 8:30 p.m.* TBS
* if necessary

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